He named the group the Good Life, which actually doubles as the motto of his home state of Nebraska and is a fittingly ironic take on the noticeably downtrodden musical creations of the band. The idea was always to create a solid lineup, but for his first recording, 2000's Novena on a Nocturn, Kasher settled for a revolving crew of talented friends and acquaintances. The resulting disc, which features such notable contributors as Cursive bandmate Clint Schnase on drums, the Faint's Todd Baechle on keyboards, and producers Mike and A.J. Mogis on a variety of instruments, was soon released on San Diego's Better Looking Records to rave reviews. Drawing comparisons to the Cure, Morrissey, Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark, and a slew of other synth-based '80s acts, Novena on a Nocturn was an intense emotional record that focused on the songwriter's recent divorce and painful memories, especially on tracks like the anguished "What We Fall for When We're Already Down" and the astonishingly personal "The Competition." Filled with drum machine-based rhythms, subtle keyboards, and Kasher's stark vocals, the disc was as impressive as it was depressing, and plenty of folks took notice.
With a growing fan base and constantly expanding arsenal of quality material, the Good Life was ready to hit the road, but not before an official lineup was solidified. Kasher beat the odds and once again recruited an impressive group of friends -- drummer Roger Lewis, sometimes Bright Eyes flutist Jiha Lee, Desaparecidios bassist Landon Hedges, and keyboardist Mike Heim -- establishing for himself an official band with more than enough talent to get things done. Subsequent touring with high-profile acts like the Jealous Sound and even Superchunk only built upon the group's reputation and led them to return to the studio, where they began work on a new record in late 2001. As the year ended and Kasher's Cursive continued to expand their popularity, the Good Life found itself a reputable new home on Omaha's Saddle Creek Records. The second LP was completed in October 2001 and the group's anticipated sophomore album, Black Out, landed in stores in early March 2002. Two years later, the EP Lovers Need Lawyers proceeded the release of the narrative full-length Album of the Year, and in 2007 the relatively stripped-down Help Wanted Nights appeared.
Peter J. D'Angelo
There's something to be said for throwing down all the money you've won and laying all your cards on the table, face up. It's a gutsy move–one that takes a bit of courage, a bit of crazy, a bit of worry and a staunch belief that the outcome will be well worth the risk. Musically, Omaha, Nebraska's The Good Life lives in a moment of that complexity. Led by Cursive's Tim Kasher (vocals, guitar), the band–featuring Stefanie Drootin (bass), Roger Lewis (drums), and Ryan Fox (guitar, keys)–creates bold songs that are not afraid of the mixed up emotions they describe, sometimes in vicious, heart-battering detail. The characters that inhabit The Good Life songs live on the precipices of courageous, crazy, worrisome and determined, throwing down the hand they’re playing in each relationship they’re trying to save or hoping to begin. Every song on the band's fourth and finest LP, Help Wanted Nights, delivers those perspectives with sheer aplomb–sometimes a little messy, sometimes a little blurred, but never ashamed of asking for what they need.
Recorded by A.J. Mogis in Omaha, NE, the songs on Help Wanted Nights were written to take place in the same small-town bar, and were initially meant as the soundtrack to a screenplay that Kasher started writing in 2006 (he’s since completed it). Unlike Album of the Year’s start-to-finish narratives, these songs seemed to describe moments of raw emotion more than chronicle a linear tale. Keeping with this idea, when it came time to prepare the tunes for the studio, The Good Life decided to keep the songs as close to their original incarnations as possible, spending long practice sessions on arrangements to record them as true to their form as they could. The resulting recordings, all set to tape, show the compositions on Help Wanted Nights as more stripped down and threadbare than previous Good Life creations.
This isn’t to say that the songs on Help Wanted Nights are not expansive; quite the contrary. Akin to stark lyricism of artists like Bruce Springsteen, each track digs into deep emotional territory through its narrative and melodies. Some songs touch on a dark version of Americana, as seen on the grand chords of "You Don’t Feel like Home to Me" and the church organ hum of "Rest Your Head." Others are softer like "So Let Go," which delivers its late-night laments via hushed vocals, moonlit, reverb-driven guitars and washed out cymbals. “Heartbroke” dissects a break-up with a heavy dose of sarcasm, while “Keely Aimee” is the best song Fleetwood Mac never wrote.
Achingly beautiful and sharply astute, Help Wanted Nights details human nature in the most honest way possible, taking risks without regret.